The Federal Trade Commission today urged online marketers to get their act together when it comes to protecting the concerns of Internet users who fear that any move they make on the web is tracked, sliced and diced by researchers and then stored in a giant Orwellian database.

The FTC charged the marketing community with paying lip service to self-regulation. In proposing a “do not track” option, the FTC blasted marketing’s bid at self-regulation as “too slow and up to now have failed to provide adequate and meaningful protection.”

In July 2009, the marketing community released the “Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavior Advertising,” which they touted as a response to the FTC’s calls for “more robust and effective self-regulation of online behavioral advertising practices that would foster transparency, knowledge and choice for consumers.”

In October, the American Association of Advertising Agencies, Direct Marketing Assn., Interactive Advertising Bureau, American Advertising Federation and Assn. of National Advertisers (a grouping that represents more than 5,000 U.S. companies) announced plans for a national educational campaign to promote the “Advertising Option Icon,” which explains a company’s online data collection and use practices and features easy-to-use opt-out mechanism.

The Council of Better Business Bureaus is supposed to monitor and enforce compliance of the voluntary program next year. The FTC is obviously underwhelmed by the industry’s outreach and is recommending that Congress, where a simple universal "do not track" tool has been proposed, get into the mix.

The ANA today said it hopes the FTC and Congress allow the industry’s self-regulatory program to “more fully develop before any decisions about legislation options are made.” How much time is needed?

The so-called self-regulatory principles were released 17 months ago. That’s eons ago in cyberspace. Marketers and their glacial move at self-regulation are to blame if Congress mandates a "do-not-track" option, which has broad support among consumers.

A "do not track" tool, in fact, may be about the only thing that Democrats and Republicans agree on these days. Who doesn't like the "do not call" registry that already is in place to keep telemarketers from ruining dinnertime?

"Do not track" is nothing more than a high-tech version of "do not call."